Trip Start Sep 26, 2004
Trip End Jan 15, 2005

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Saturday, December 4, 2004

December 4, 04

I just returned from three days at an elephant camp three hours outside of Bangkok. The tour started by visiting the remaining bridge over the river Kwai. The wooden one was destroyed by air raids not long after completion. The steel bridge has been repaired and is still functioning today. Then it was off to visit Hellfire Pass, a section of the Thailand - Burmese railway that was built by allied prisoners and conscripted workers. As many as 15,000 prisoners died because of the brutal conditions in which the Japanese made them work. The museum had interesting artifacts and a video presentation about the railway. After that we headed to the camp and met the elephants. They have 15 Asian elephants, some as old as 35 others as young as 10. I traveled with 4 British guys and 3 Scandinavian girls. We spent both nights on the river Kwai in floating hotels. The river current is quite strong and if you swim, it takes you downstream pretty fast. They have ropes tied to the sides of the buildings so you can hang on and reel yourself in. After a night of relaxing and listening to the river surge by the hotel, we rose at dawn and rode the elephants on a jungle trek. The lumbering beasts are handled by a 'mahoud'. This is someone who trains the elephant, and is always around when guests are present. Each elephant is taught up to 60 words and commands by these handlers. They will kneel, raise their trunks, turn right or left, etc. Impressive. After the trek some people rode the elephants right into the river and gave them a bath. I stayed on shore and took pics. They were going to have to pay me to wash their animals, not the other way around! For an additional $10 you could ride bareback down a steep bank into the water. You were then handed a brush and scrubbed the elephant's hide all over. They would go under water, spray water with their trunks all over the place, and play with each other during bath time. It was quite funny to watch. The Mahoud's were on board to make sure no one got hurt.
In the afternoon we all got on bamboo rafts and floated down river for almost two hours. Swimming, sun and relaxation made this a highlight of the day for me. The next day we all visited a 7 step waterfall in a national park. It was quite a hike to the 7th one, but well worth it. We swam along the way and spent an hour or so at the top before heading back down. Monkeys and a lot of birds kept us entertained along the trail. After returning to Bangkok I decided to head south to Singapore. Long bus ride. Very long, almost 28 hours. It was broken up by transfers, border crossings and rest stops. We also spent some time in Kuala Lumpur, so I got to see the Petronas towers and a little of the city.
Singapore is an Island nation that lies about 60 miles north of the equator. I stayed in the little India section of the city. Very nice, and much cleaner than the real India. I relaxed at my guest house and did a small city tour and a few other things to keep myself busy. Singapore is well known for its deals on all kinds of electronics. Digital cameras, stereo equipment and all kinds of gadgets. I had fun just browsing the hundreds of shops and malls that were nothing but electronic gear. Singapore is a very clean city as well. Litter and trash is not scattered about as in other Asian cities. A nice change.
I have island hopped getting back to Bangkok. The Thailand coast and Islands offer unique landscapes. I took a boat from Krabi and tried out different Islands. Nice beaches, not too crowded and some had trails into the woods and surrounding cliffs to explore. I'm headed back to Bangkok for one day and then it's off to Siem Riep, Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. More from there............
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